Month: January 2018

The Unfoundary

“Old man, what’s that up there?”

“The Unfoundary?”

“You call it that? What is it?”

I frown. It’s a broad gateway high on Thumb Hill. It’s made of tan stone, carved with shapes as old as the Thumb itself, flanked with squared-off pillars and wrapped in cords as wide as I am tall. The binding cords reach up, twined together at the tip of the gateway, and then on beyond our sight into the sky. We can see it from anywhere in the valley, Thumb Hill and the Unfoundary.

“What is it?” the young stranger repeats.

“We call it the Unfoundary,” I reply. “You must not be from around here.”

He shakes his head, which is covered in wavy brown hair. “I’m from the east. Trinlos.”

“Ah, a city. I’ve been there before.”

“You have?” Surprise, perhaps respect. “You traveled a long way, old man.”

“Us both. I hope you didn’t come to see the Unfoundary only, but we don’t have much anything else to see in our valley.”

“You have forests, and snow,” he says, glancing around past the edge of the village. “I’m traveling further south, but I like your village.”

“Fortune to you, then,” I say with a slight bow.

“Tell me, though, what is this Unfoundary? It must be as wide as your whole town!”

I can’t tell whether he means to compliment our scenery or insult our size. “I’d stay off the hillside, if I were you. The Unfoundary is an evil place.”

“What’s evil about it?”

“It’s a place where the dead go–where people sometimes go to die.”

His face shows interest, curiosity. “Trinlos is superstitious, but I didn’t think you westerners were as well.”

I shrug my shoulders. “We stay alive this way. And safe.”

The young man’s intrigued expression fades as he shifts his haversack and stamps his feet for warmth. “I’m not sure how much I believe of your superstition, but it’s interesting, to say the least. Good day to you, old one.”

I grunt. “Safe travels.” What I wouldn’t give some days to travel again. It’s been fifteen years since I so much as climbed the side of the valley.

The day is calm and white–early snowfall from a blank sky. Most of the village stays inside their huts, pungent smoke filtering out through fire holes and the occasional opened door. I see my friend Onór at the side of her hut watching the traveler go.

“You talked to him?” she asks me.

“Yes. He’s from Trinlos–did you know I went there once?”

“Where haven’t you gone?” Onór asks with a faint smile. “I think you’ve had too many years with not enough work to do.”

Perhaps she’s right–I’m five years older than anyone else in the village–forty-five older than most. Some of them have never left the valley. Most have never left sight of it, never seen a city or a sheer mountain or the sea. It’s strange to be the old one.

“Where’s he headed to now?”

“South,” I reply. “Probably looking for money.”

“There’s no riches worth leaving a safe warm hearth for this time of year.”


Onór sees my eyes following the traveler onto the forested slope of the valley. “Oh, did you want to go with him?” she asks dryly. “Poor old dog. I think your travels are done now.”

“Maybe,” I say again, with an idea shaping in my mind.

A God’s Song

It was a beautiful day when the priests invaded our home. Cloaked in prayer and singing hymns, they shaped our natural environment to suit their bodies. The clergy bent pieces of space-time into rock and water; they forced our bodies that were so used to existing as incorporeal concepts into something they could understand. They defined what we could be until it was what we were.

I remember raging with my family at the rudeness of it all. But, like the others, I calmed as the priests spoke.

They spoke of their home far away and the evil that plagued it. A place filled with fear, anger, hostility, and those who had given up. The priests begged anyone who would listen to go back with them—help them heal their sick and teach them how to care for those who had wandered from the faith. Even now, looking back on it, I’d have made the same decision. There was no way to know. No way to tell just how misguided and cruel they’d turn out to be.

The night before I left, my family and I sang and danced in the stellar fields above the place we called home. It was a song my mother had taught me when I was newly created. A simple four-note melody that echoed across space and filled me with the love and joy of fond memories. It was a reminder of where I’d come from and where I’d go. She told me to hum that song whenever I missed her and to sing with the glory of our pantheon if I ever needed them. “We’ll find you,” she told me, “and we’ll bring you back home.”

Dawn came and I left the undefined reality of home and crossed into the small pocket of physical space where the priests were waiting. They led me to their ship that was docked nearby (their bodies couldn’t yet handle the pressure of conceptual space).

They ushered me inside and sealed the outer walls. The priests gathered around me and filled the air with their echoing chant as they led me deeper into the bowels of the vessel. I felt my new body wrap around me, defining my form and twisting me into a new shape even as I fought against it.

I felt myself diminish with each step. I couldn’t hear the yawning cosmos or feel the subatomic explosions dance across my thoughts. I should have turned and fled. I should have sung my mother’s song and had my brothers and sisters tear this ship apart.